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Showing 1-10 of 18 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 25 reviews
on August 21, 2012
I, like other reviewers, have been fascinated about early Hollywood for many years; not just an interest in its movies, but in the people and studios. There were many aspects of the author's coverage of Paul Bern's story that I found interesting or informative, but he is definitely a man on a mission. This mission is to establish Bern as both a vital, erudite part of MGM's writing and production team and as a definite ladies' man/social mover/saint. The author seems to list every mention of Bern in social columns along with others who attended various functions. This can be interesting information, but is given without context, more as just a listing of his social calendar. The same is done regarding various movies/scenarios with which Bern was involved - at times, the author becomes very bogged down in synopses of these movies without any context or indication of the relevance to his premise. Tangential information for the sake of information can be covered in a footnote (although in this case the footnotes might be longer than the body of the book.), allowing readers who want these synopses to read them, but not halting the flow of the main focus of the book.

It is a minor flaw, but very irritating to me, that an author so focused on minutiae regarding Bern was so sloppy in referring to a party attended by "William" (instead of Winston) Churchill, the British Prime Minister (not yet, "future" prime minister, yes). There were also some grammar and misused word issues, but not as major a flaw as many I've read. I don't think copy editors really exist anymore.

The kindle edition of the book was fine with the exception of the photographs. The author included some nice photos, a few of which I don't remember seeing before, but in the kindle they are very small, and the captions are miniscule. I did the enlarging text feature, but they were still difficult to read.

Overall, I am glad that I have read the book, and it was interesting. The writing gets bogged down at times with too many details in some aspects, but not enough information in others. It left me with a desire to read other information on Bern, but with a feeling of knowing much more about him than I had before.
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on March 15, 2016
For nearly 85 years, writing about film producer Paul Bern has almost exclusively been focused on one year of his life, 1932, the year he married Jean Harlow, followed only a few months later by his murder (MGM preferred, successfully for his demise to be labeled as suicide). While there is no way to tell the Bern story without discussing that tragedy in great detail, this book covers so much more, allowing readers to discover his talent, his compassion for his fellow workers and friends (especially for Dorothy Millette, his probable common-law wife) and the results of his remarkable work in the film industry. While Mayer and Thalberg were the public face of MGM, Bern was one of their most creative geniuses, a fact that was quickly submerged by the blaring headlines surrounding his scandalous death, and MGM's fear that the tragedy could de-rail the career of one of their fastest rising stars, the blonde bombshell Harlow (the Front Office was wrong - public sympathy for Harlow was overwhelming). Fleming paints an excellent portrait of the entire man and his remarkable talent, but also thoroughly explores his complicated psyche, his devotion to Harlow (and to a few other beautiful women before her) and a straight forward, factual and detailed account of the events surrounding his death. Thanks to Fleming, Bern, who is only known in today's world for the salacious details and innuendos that surrounded the coverage of his front-page death, we can now appreciate Bern for how much he actually contributed to the film industry, and brings him back to the position in the Hollywood hierarchy he has always deserved. Even if you're not a film buff, this is simply a fascinating biography, written with style and a keen eye to detail. Biography at it's best, it is compelling, engrossing and a joy to read. Kudos to E.J. Fleming for taking on this daunting task...and succeeding brilliantly.
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on February 5, 2015
This was a very dry read. For some reason the author felt it necessary to include alot of unnecessary facts. Do we really need to know the details of every movie Paul Bern produced? Do we need to know the guest list of every party Paul Bern attended? I guess he didn't have enough information on Paul Bern so felt it necessary to fill up the book with alot of inconsequential stuff that no one really cares about. There were also quite a few typos, missing words and misspelled words. Do copy editors just no longer exist in the 21st century? The book did not get interesting until after Paul's death. The author talked about the MGM coverup and how those stories became "fact" over the years and have maligned Mr. Bern's name forever. If you like books on old Hollywood, there's not alot of new information here. Some may find it interesting but I questioned how much research was actually done. There are definitely better books out there such as "Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow."
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on January 11, 2012
I can't get enough of Old Hollywood, the stories, the facts, the glamour, the secrets. One of the best kept secrets, was how important this man, Paul Bern was to the industry, and how they maligned him in death to save their own necks.

I had already read another book about Bern, which claimed the same (Millette) ending, so this was not a surprise for me. What delighted me was, that along with details about the films Mr. Bern was responsible for, many without taking any credit, the author fleshes out Bern's character as a kind and generous man who did not deserve the betrayal he received in death.

As one fascinated by Jean Harlow, I have to question why she didn't do more to prevent that. But then she was only barely 21 years old at the time this all went down and I'm guessing she didn't have the strength of character that her husband had. To be fair, she never spoke in unison with the party line, but her silence was just as bad.

Many books list films in a droll way, but this author described them in such a way that now when I watch one of those films, I will see it with new eyes. An incredible amount of research went into Fleming's work and it is an outstanding read.

I do have a few questions, which I guess no one can ever know. Why on earth, would Bern have been heard yelling at a woman, (MIllette) telling her to get out of his life, and then take her into his bedroom to strip naked to change out of their swimming clothes? Understanding why he let her into his bedroom remains an enigma to me. Perhaps she just took it upon herself to follow him in. We will never know. I kind of wish the author would have added his two cents on this.

The pictures are worth the price of admission. Crisp and clear on Kindle Fire.

A definite must read if you are a film history, Old Hollywood nut.
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on October 22, 2010
Like others, I was unsure about this book - after all, Paul Bern was reputed to be a depressed, pathetic soul with supposed physical limitations that prevented consummating his marriage to Jean Harlow. It sounded like a bleak life into which I'd prefer no to delve - but I'm glad I did.

While I knew that some of this legend was probably an exaggeration, I was unprepared for the lengths to which the studios went to paint Mr. Burn, in the aftermath of his "suicide", as loser to shield their big Star, Jean Harlow. They were

As the book reveals, he was warmly regarded by almost everyone, a fine talent, and apparently had one of the busiest Hollywood social schedules around. He was very much in demand professionally and socially, due to his wit and affability. His love of Jean Harow was probably one of the highlights of her too short life.

The book has some interesting Hollywood tales not often mentioned in other books, but no less interestig. The only downside: His life, except for it's ending, was fairly stable. Those looking for tales of a mercurial talent with emotional roller-coaster rides might be a little disappointed. I wasn't.
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I bought this book because I am a huge Jean Harlow fan and have read E.J. Fleming's other books (and have enjoyed them). Honestly, I didn't really care all that much about Paul Bern. After all, he was supposedly a thoughtful intellectual with a fragile ego and might well be regarded as a murky footnote in Jean Harlow's all too short life. I wasn't really expecting to learn much about Bern and his death, but I was certain there would be tidbits about Harlow and at the very least some good vintage pictures of the platinum one.
For this reader, PAUL BERN was a complete revelation. After the first few pages, I pretty much forgot about Harlow and was totally into Paul's story. It turns out that Paul Bern was pretty much the antithesis of the pathetic suicide he has been portrayed as since 1932. Through intensive research, Fleming has uncovered a very different portrait of the man. Ironically, by the time Harlow arrived on the scene I wasn't wondering what she saw in Paul Bern though I probably was wondering what specifically attracted him to her.
The temptation to give away some of the more interesting issues covered in this book is fairly great, but I am going to stay away from being a spoiler.While the author has done a magnificent job fleshing out the real Bern, he has also managed to include a couple of hot topics. Fleming discusses the paternity of silent screen siren Barbara LaMarr's so-called adopted son. I am not 100% convinced on the so-called father, but I am certain LaMarr was the birth mother. I suspect DNA testing might help clarify this point. I am also waiting on that long promised book from the son (Don Gallery) that might provide more substantial information. Fleming also discusses Bern's suicide and has made an excellent case for a cover-up/murder which I buy into. However, the one element of this book that absolutely won me over is the intensive amount of research that Mr. Fleming performed and his meticulous footnoting. I found myself often flipping back to the footnotes. It gave me a point of reference and a sense of Mr. Fleming's research tecniques.
The book's price is somewhat steep, but consistent with the product that the publisher (McFarland) produces. If that is an issue for you, you might want to pass unless you are interested in Harlow, Bern, early cinema, or crime. That said, this is a wonderful book. Mr. Fleming's work has matured and he is a first rate non-fiction writer and researcher. ENJOY!
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on January 21, 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of this book that were biographical. I knew very little about Paul Bern (and actually, not that much about Jean Harlow) before reading this, and I am glad to know more about him. I always enjoy reading about the movers and shakers of early Hollywood. It seems just that this seemingly good man is finally getting his name cleared, albeit so many years later. My main complaint was the endless descriptions of every movie plot that Mr. Bern was involved with over his career. I didn't find them intrinsic to the book and it felt like the author was trying to pump up the number of words to increase his pay. Anyway, I found it monotonous, distracting and annoying. So, I just started skipping over them. Otherwise, I liked the book very much.
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on May 12, 2009
E.J. Fleming's biography of Paul Bern finally straightens out all of the MGM Studio lies and rumours that LB Mayer and his cronies promoted to keep their cash-cow, Jean Harlow, a major studio asset. As a top producer behind the scenes of the film business, Bern's reputation could be sullied for the sake of the studio system. It has taken 77 years for us to discover through Mr. Fleming's book what truly happened.

Mr. Fleming has done his research and thoroughly delved into Paul Bern's life with many quotes,interviews and facts from the people that knew and worked with Mr. Bern. The book brings to life Paul's warm and giving side as he genuinely liked people and sat at the death beds of many close friends. This was a caring man as well as a producer of some great films and the warm relationship he finally found with 21 year old Jean Harlow makes the ending all the more tragic.

Though the book is pricey for a paper bound book, this is a book anyone with interest in the film industry or Miss Harlow should have in their collection. Unlike other so-called biographies, this one is well researched, has numerous photographs and the author has pulled all the information into a sensible, plausible ending answering the question of: suicide or murder? While making Paul Bern come to life as an erudite and kindly man who had many friends, who was highly respected and had the kind heart to help those in need, he also brings out the reason that the marriage to Miss Harlow was a good match. It is no wonder that little Jean Harlow fell for this kindly, loving man.

Those of you interested in film do need this book in your collection. There are fascinating facts and it is a most enjoyable book to read as well. Finally the truth is there for us all to see. And shame on those who covered the truth for so long!
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on July 19, 2013
I learned about Paul Bern from reading Irving Thalberg's biography. As it turns out Mr. Bern was just as important and influential as the "Boy Wonder". It's a shame what they did to his image after he was murdered, this book clears up all the lies. I recommend it.
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on November 27, 2009
I've avidly read this most scholarly book on the truth surrounding the life and legacy of Paul Bern, one of the most powerful pioneering creators of Hollywood Golden Age.

He was instrumental in launching Jean Harlow, the first Hollywood Bombshell. Also, he was always there and a loyal friend and counselor to many actors and actresses, elevating them to stardom. His films were not merely entertaining, but above all transformational for their audiences.

In the book, the MGM's cover up and Paul Bern's character assassination, insinuating and spreading false information that he was sexually inadequate and thus committed suicide, is a huge disgrace to the whole Hollywood establishment. It is for the first time thoroughly and scientifically investigated and most convincingly documented by its legendary author and first class journalist, E.J. Fleming.

This book is a rare brilliant, a must read and liberating for the human spirit, constantly in the quest for truth.

And the truth will set you free!

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